Heritage and Culture
Mexilhoeira Grande Cultural Outing
Mexilhoeira Grande is the largest of the three parishes that make up the municipality of Portimão, although it has the fewest inhabitants.
It presents singular landscapes, result of the orographic and climatic profile of the region as well as the agricultural activity developed there for years.
Of an essentially rural nature, it keeps vivid traditions and customs very evident in the daily lives of Mexilhoeirenses.
Making a chronological progression, this itinerary should begin in the Megalithic Monuments of Alcalar (prehistory), passing through the Roman Villa of Abicada, then by the extinct parish of Senhora do Verde and ending the visit in the center of the village of Mexilhoeira Grande, where We can observe the result of this evolutionary process.
Heading to Espargueira
For practical reasons, our tour of the patrimony of this parish will begin in the areas of Espargueira and Abicada.
Then head to Espargueira, between salt marshes, marshes and streams, discovering the genuine nature along with an archeological and natural heritage of great wealth. Contemplate a beautiful landscape, with an abundant fauna and flora, where the river extends its arms as if to embrace all this beauty.
It is easy to understand why the Romans considered this the ideal setting for the construction of Villa da Abicada, which will be our second stop.
In this nucleus, pay special attention to the vernacular and popular architectural heritage, highlighting the white houses with colored bars around the windows and doors and the typical Algarvian chimney.
For years, the taipa was the material chosen by the locals for the construction of the walls of their houses, that later were lime-washed, produced in several places of the parish.
Another aspect that can not be neglected is the religiosity of the popular, well evident in the various elements of religious architecture, namely the Mother Church, the Chapel of Senhor dos Passos and the Church of Mercy.
National Monument of Villa da Abicada
A Villa, dating from the 1st century AD and it would eventually get famous to this day. Occupies a space that contains all the elements privileged by the Roman lords: property oriented to a sea / river and mountain slope, surrounded by the rivers of the Farelo and Senhora do Verde, that will empty into the river, and flooded and fertile lands. The Villa is known for the divisions destined to the feminine and masculine elements, as well as those of the kitchen, collections and services.
Its plant is unique: it develops around a hexagonal atrium, presenting itself as a rectangle divided into three well-differentiated bodies. The central body is constituted by five quadrangular compartments that are organized from the sides of an outer hexagon in which is defined another smaller and concentric – the impluvium.
To the west is another nucleus constituted by compartments that communicate with each other through a corridor that surrounds the peristyle. In this body is the “gynaeceum”, space reserved for women.
The spring distinguishes itself the body of the building destined to barns, kitchen and dependences of slaves. The richness of the monument is in its mosaic: with geometric motifs formed by polychrome tessellations (various colors, predominating gray, red, white and blue). The only area where there are no mosaics is the dependencies of the kitchen, storage rooms and rooms of slaves and servants.
Going Towards Alcalar
Going now from Mexilhoeira towards Alcalar, do not forget to appreciate, along the way, the diversity of agricultural activities, from vineyards to orange groves, punctuated by carob trees, almond and fig trees and one or another olive grove, once the great wealth of the Algarve.
The Neolithic settlement of Alcalar was located on the edge of the previously navigable section of Ribeira da Torre, which stretched over a prominent head near Alcalar, about five kilometers from Mexilhoeira Grande, in the middle of the Barrocal Algarve.
Arriving at: National Monument – the Megalithic Necropolis of Alcalar – the Interpretive Center allows you to get information about the village and the necropolis, as well as to make a socio-cultural and historical framework of this millenarian community.
Going Towards Alcalar
It is believed that the town of Mexilhoeira Grande is very old, with reference to it in documents dating from the first half of the fifteenth century. Historians believe that Mexilhoeira was an important settlement, certainly a seat of the Parish, long before the seventeenth century, according to the construction of its main church, completed in 1534.
In 1834, the parish is detached from that of Monchique and belongs to the municipality of Portimão.
Already in 1999 the village of Mexilhoeira Grande was elevated to the category of Villa.
Senhora do Verde
Finally, and as a curiosity, you can also go a little further north and visit the place where the parish of Senhora do Verde extinguished in 1836. This parish, whose territory is now divided by the surrounding parishes, A unique role in religious beliefs. Legend has it that during the reign of D. Manuel, near the Ribeira da Senhora do Verde, miraculously sprouted from the bowels of the earth a fountain whose water would have curative properties.
This phenomenon has given rise to the construction of a religious monument and to the parish itself. Today, passing by this river is still possible a small glimpse of the ruins of the Church of the Lady of the Green, which came to be Parish Matrix. It is a building of only one nave, with a vaulted chapel more narrow than the body of the church. The highlight goes to the main portico with Manueline features. The image of the patroness is in a chapel annexed to the Mother Church of Alvor.